12/10/2005, 00.00
INDIA
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Perpetrators of Ayodhya violence scot-free after 13 years

by Nirmala Carvalho

Thirteen years after Hindu fundamentalists destroyed the Babri mosque, the Commission of Inquiry has yet to present its findings. The "macabre synergy" between Hindutva and Islamic extremism must be severed.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Perpetrators of the demolition of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, are still roaming free 13 years later. The inquiry into the violence has yet to present its findings; as for the suspects, formal charges have been filed against them and that is all.

On 6 December 1992, extremist Hindus demolished the mosque of Babri Masjid (XVI century), which was constructed, according to them, on the birthplace of the god Ram. After the demolition, the Hindus – from the ranks of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad party (VHP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – erected a temporary temple dedicated to the deity. The Muslim reaction came on 27 February 2002, when a train packed with Hindus was attacked in the town of Godhra in Gujarat. There were 58 victims among the Hindus who were returning to Ayodhya itself. The BJP, the governing party in Gujarat, and the local police were directly responsible for the massacres which followed in the region. 2,000 Muslims were killed in the 2002 violence.

A Commission of Inquiry – appointed at the end of 1992 by the former premier P. V. Narasimha Rao – led by Liberhan is about to present its findings; meanwhile, eight leaders of the nationalist BJP, including its president L.K.Advani, are on trial in a special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court.

The final charges against Advani and his seven party colleagues were formulated only on 28 July. The charges relate to spreading communal frenzy, inciting rioting and crime. No one knows when the case will finally be closed.

The judicial inquiry into the destruction of the Babri mosque and the ensuing clashes between Muslims and Hindus is one of the longest in India's history. According to sources close to Liberhan, the Commission will submit its report within three months. Observers in India warn that, with the testimonies gathered from politicians and others from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Congress and the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS – the armed wing of the BJP), the commission's report could be a "veritable bombshell".

According to sources within the Commission, different BJP leaders could well be affected by the Liberhan report. 'The real challenge before the commission is not only to unravel why and how the demolition happened, but to identify the larger forces and actors responsible for it," said a commission official.

The Commission heard the last witness in August: Kalyan Singh, governor of Uttar Pradesh at the time of the incident, who was dismissed soon after. Procedural delays and non-cooperation from key witnesses have contributed to the inordinately long time taken to write this report.

Interviewed by AsiaNews, John Dayal, president of the All India Catholic Council, called on the local and central government to "do service to the rule of law by ensuring that those guilty of demolishing the mosque are finally punished". The human rights activist said this may help to rein in extremists and to prevent new waves of violence:  "From a wider perspective, a just conclusion to the Ayodhya case may even control and prevent Islamic extremism which feeds on Hindutva ideology in a macabre synergy."

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